Last month we celebrated International Multiple Birth Awareness Week with a range of activities. You probably don’t think of twins or triplets (or more!) needing an ‘awareness’ week, but families with multiples can face many challenges in pregnancy, labour, childhood and beyond. So what’s it really like to have twins? We asked two members of staff with twins to give us an insight into life as a multiple birth family…
Vivek – father of twins
"There's more than one in there," said the sonographer. The words still resonate in our ears even now.
How ecstatic, thrilled, happy, blissful, content we felt when we discovered at the 12 week scan that we were expecting fraternal twins. Logistics, finance, support, childcare all loomed large in our minds; we hadn’t even started preparation for the arrival of one baby let alone two! There were hundreds of things to plan for and think about.
It was a rollercoaster ride to take care of the pregnancy, continue to work and prepare for their arrival. As my wife was getting bigger, her feet were swelling day by day and it was diagnosed that one of the twins wasn’t gaining weight. At 36 weeks + 2 days the twins were delivered via emergency C-section. Thanks to frequent monitoring, my wife’s pre-eclampsia was detected early on. That was the stage when reality hit hard.
Undoubtedly, the best moment of our lives was holding our babies in our arms but the situation wasn’t without its difficulties. My wife was in the hospital for 10 days after the delivery to monitor the twins’ weight gain. At this stage, it felt that there was a big lack of support; no one to guide or help with breastfeeding, pain from the delivery and with no member of family around at night (as per hospital rules), it made it extremely difficult for my wife to cope and she suffered with post-partum depression. The twins were tuned naturally to cry at the same time for a feed and my wife would struggle to get out of bed due to the pain from her stitches.
Coming home our life revolved around our girls. Each day has been a new experience discovering something different about them and ourselves. Managing finance was another challenge. We have managed most of the situations practically by not having two of everything thus instilling the values of sharing and caring from an early stage.
It is such a pleasure to see them grow together. They share and care for each other. It is the most special bond in the world. They are each other’s best play mates, biggest support system and one can’t do without the other.
Our journey continues and there will be many more opportunities and challenges on our way but we are determined to face them with an open heart and mind. I have had many people say ‘Double Trouble’ but we prefer to say ‘Double the Fun’!
Cathy – mother of twins
In no half measures, I gave birth to non-identical girls on bonfire night in 1991. The fireworks serenaded their arrival into the world. Born by epidural caesarean, the two girls arrived at weights of 7Ib 2oz and 6Ib 13oz: Ruth long and Hannah short. The two were very different individuals physically and in character and continued to be so as they grew.
As newborns, I swaddled them in a cot together, back to back or top and tail. Night and day I woke them together to feed in a pair: they were placid and mostly content. The support I had from the breastfeeding nurse specialist was invaluable and I maintained feeding the twins for several months.
Trawling National Childbirth Trust table-top sales, I set about clothing them differently and realising their differences. I marked in their Baby Book their milestones and observed how different they developed in walking, climbing and speech.
I’m also a twin and have shared a strong bond with my brother throughout our lives. As children we forged solid alliances from the start, took part in many conspiracies against parents or siblings, and even engaged in our own twin dialect. So my own experience of twinhood, rightly or wrongly, launched my twin daughters into a life of preconceived expectations for their future. However, no twin dialect or conspiracies emerged between the two. They have continued to forge their own identities. Their interrelationship through childhood and to the current day has always been different to that of mine with my twin.
Find out more
Learn more about the Elizabeth Bryan Multiple Births Centre and its work to develop improved care for multiple birth families.